United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by the Defendants, Indiana Department of Correction
(“IDOC”) and Lt. C. Nicholson (“Lt.
Nicholson”) dkt . The Plaintiff, Raymond Strominger
(“Mr. Strominger”), is an inmate who is currently
confined at the Pendleton Correctional Facility but was
formerly incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility (“Wabash Valley”). He is confined to a
wheelchair. The incidents giving rise to the claims in the
Amended Complaint all occurred at Wabash Valley.
the Court screened the Amended Complaint, it allowed Claim 1
to proceed. Claim 1 alleges that Mr. Strominger was denied
access to outdoor recreation for over ten months, beginning
in December 2013, because Lt. Nicholson failed to timely and
properly repair a wheelchair ramp. Mr. Strominger alleges
that these circumstances violated his rights under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
et. seq. (the “ADA”), the Rehabilitation
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (“Rehab Act”), and the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. The ADA and Rehab Act claims were allowed to
proceed against the IDOC. The constitutional claims for
damages are proceeding against Lt. Nicholson in his
individual capacity only. Mr. Strominger seeks compensatory
and punitive damages.
reasons explained in this Entry, the Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment is granted.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings
and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric
Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 5');">5 U.S. 5');">574');">475');">5 U.S. 5');">574, 5');">587
(1986). Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 5');">56(a). A “material fact” is one that
“might affect the outcome of the suit.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the
non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence
showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court
views the record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp.,
5');">512 F.3d 903');">5');">512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence
or make credibility determinations on summary judgment
because those tasks are left to the fact-finder.
O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 5');">57 F.3d 625');">5');">65');">57 F.3d 625');">5,
630 (7th Cir. 2011).
dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no
reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then
there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v.
Harris, 5');">55');">50 U.S. 372');">5');">55');">50 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the
standards set forth above. That is, this statement of facts
is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary
judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the
disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most
favorable to Mr. Strominger as the non-moving party with
respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 5');">530 U.S. 133');">5');">530 U.S. 133, 15');">50
times relevant, Mr. Strominger was incarcerated at Wabash
Valley. He uses a wheelchair, and this lawsuit relates to a
wheelchair ramp that led from his housing unit, the secured
confinement unit (“SCU”), to the outdoor
recreation area. Before December 2013, Mr. Strominger had
been using the ramp without issue. Dkt.
[85');">5]-1, p. 18, lines 14-17; p. 19, lines
8-10 (Strominger Deposition). Sometime in December 2013, he
was on his way to outdoor recreation when he discovered a
hole in the ramp. Amended Complaint, dkt. [5');">5], p. 6; dkt.
[85');">5]-1, p. 18, lines 18-25');">5; dkt. , ¶ 19
(Strominger's Declaration). Mr. Strominger believes that
if the wheel of his wheelchair went into the hole he would
have been flipped out of his chair, although this never
actually occurred. Dkt. [85');">5]-1, pp. 28-29. He does not know
if he could have maneuvered around the hole because he
stopped using the ramp after discovering the hole. Dkt.
[85');">5]-1, p. 24, lines 5');">5-25');">5; p. 25');">5, lines 1-17. Mr. Strominger
alleged in the Amended Complaint that he “would not try
to use the ramp again as it is too unsafe.” Dkt. [5');">5],
p. 7, ¶ 6. Further, he does not allege that Lt.
Nicholson or anyone else prohibited him from trying to use
the damaged ramp. See dkt. [5');">5].
contrast to what he pled in the Amended Complaint and in
grievances, Mr. Strominger testified during his deposition
that he wanted to use the ramp, but that staff would not
allow him to use it. Specifically, Mr. Strominger testified
that staff was ordered by Lt. Nicholson that Mr. Strominger
was not allowed to use the ramp. Dkt. [85');">5]-1, p. 43, lines
4-25');">5; p. 44, lines 1-16. Mr. Strominger does not remember the
names of any officer who prevented him from using the ramp.
Id., p. 48.
Nicholson disputes ever telling Mr. Strominger that he was
not allowed to use the ramp. Id., p. 44, lines 5');">5-25');">5;
p. 45');">5, line 1. Lt. Nicholson testified that he did not issue
an order that Mr. Strominger or any other offender not be
allowed to use the ramp. As a Lieutenant, Lt. Nicholson would
have been aware if such an order had been issued in the SCU,
and he is unaware of there being such an order. Dkt. -1,
Strominger was housed in administrative segregation, and
offenders in administrative segregation are placed in
mechanical restraints when they are escorted around the
facility. Lt. Nicholson has always understood that Mr.
Strominger would receive staff assistance if he wanted to use
the ramp and go to outdoor recreation. Id.,
¶¶ 2-3. Lt. Nicholson testified that if he had been
aware of staff not allowing Mr. Strominger to use the ramp,
he would have taken appropriate steps to make sure Mr.
Strominger had access to the recreation area. Id.,
Strominger contacted Lt. Nicholson in December 2013 regarding
issues with the ramp. Answer, dkt. [25');">5], ¶ 4; dkt. ,
¶¶ 19-20. Lt. Nicholson inspected the ramp in
January 2014. After inspecting the ramp, Lt. Nicholson
determined that the ramp was damaged, but that it could still
be used. He also believed that the hole in the ramp could be
avoided. Dkt. -1, ¶¶ 5');">5-6. While Lt. Nicholson
believed the ramp was in usable condition, he also determined
that it should be repaired with wood. Id., ¶ 7.
The ramp was exposed to the outside conditions, so it would
get wet when it rained. Dkt. [85');">5]-1, p. 26, lines 10-17. Mr.
Strominger testified that that was why the ramp became
internal email dated January 24, 2014, related to a
discussion of repairing the ramp, Lt. Nicholson stated that
the “current ramps are a hazard.” Dkt. -2.
Notwithstanding his statement, Lt. Nicholson still believed
that the ramps were safe and appropriate to use with staff
assistance. Dkt. -1, ¶ 9.
April 27, 2014, Mr. Strominger tried to go to outside
recreation but when the officer pushing him saw the ramp, he
stopped and pulled Mr. Strominger back and said he was not
going to chance pushing him into the hole. The officer then
pushed Mr. Strominger back to his cell. Dkt. , ¶ 21.
Mr. Strominger filed an informal grievance about the ramp on
April 27, 2014. Dkt. -7, p. 4. This grievance was
assigned # 82140. Id., p. 1. He complained that the
ramp had a “big hole” in it and he had been
“told by Sgt. Busbe over 3 months ago it was fixed, but
it is not and only getting worse.” Id., p. 4.
On April 28, 2014, Lt. Nicholson responded to the informal
complaint that “[t]his is scheduled to be totally
replaced by a new concrete one. I don't have a completion
date yet.” Dkt. -7, p. 4.
April 29, 2014, in his formal grievance, Mr. Strominger
stated that “[t]he other day when I used the ramp,
4/27/14, my front wheel on my wheel chair almost went through
the hole, which would have flipped me head first out of my
wheelchair.” Id., p. 3. Mr. Strominger also
complained that the ramp “has become so unsafe that I
am unable to use it at all in fear that I will get hurt,
therefore leaving me unable to have access to the outside rec
area . . .” Id.
1, 2014, shortly after grievance #82140 was filed, Lt.
Nicholson investigated and photographed the ramp in its
damaged condition. See dkt. -3. This photograph
accurately depicts the ramp in its damaged condition. Dkt.
-1, ¶ 13; dkt. [85');">5]-1, p. 23, lines 14-24.
12, 2014, Lt. Nicholson reported to the grievance specialist
that he had investigated Mr. Strominger's complaint and
the handicapped ramp was temporarily repaired with wood until
a concrete ramp is completed. Dkt. -7, p. 8. On June 2,
2014, the ...